I somehow forgot to start the work for this week of evo, so caught up that I’ve been in exploring Second Life. The task was to simply use one of the vocabulary lists I made in previous weeks and try to create some activities to accompany these lists.For my 2nd graders and middle school beginners, I like http://www.spellingcity.com and Classtools.

I made these activities on Spelling City for my 2nd grade students:

I also made a Wall Wisher for my 7th grade students, and another Spelling City list for my middle school beginner students.  This has also given me an excuse to go back and work on the class website that I started at the beginning of the school year but never finished.  I’ll post everything there during the fifth and final week of the course.

This week village 11 focused on simulated real-life scenes, recreations of historical monuments, real life places, and active communities in Second Life.  My schedule didn’t allow me to attend many tours this week, but I did make it to Paris 1900 and Arachon.  Unfortunately, the lag in the Paris tour today didn’t allow me to enjoy it much, but I had visited it before, one morning when we had a snow day, and it’s awesome!  As both places use French, I got to practice my listening, although it’s been too long for me to dare to speak!  I have a whole list of places to visit as I have the time, which I’ll post here (so I won’t forget that I want to visit them):

Some require you to dress in authentic period clothing.  I keep thinking “if I had students I could use this with…”  A fellow teacher suggested only the teacher having access to SL, while the RL students watch on.  This could work with my younger students, who get excited about anything that’s even partially new (which I love btw!), but I think the older students would get bored fairly fast.  None of it matters for the time being, since the Internet connection is way too slow, and I’m sure SL is blocked, but you never know what the future may bring.  For now, I’m content learning what I can about language teaching and learning in SL.

After continued problems accessing the VILLAGE Grouply site (is my connection really THAT bad?  can I blame it on the snow?), I’ve decided to comment on my Second Life experience here.  I think it can be summed up nicely in a list:

  1. Wow.  That’s awesome.  How can I have had an avatar for 1,333 days (3 and a half years) and not have taken more time to learn how to use it?
  2. Wow.  Time consuming.
  3. Wow.  I can go shopping in Second Life when there’s too much snow to go shopping here.  Second Life has even been nice enough to decline all my credit accounts so I can’t buy anything and have to hunt around for free stuff.
  4. Wow.  University of Cincinnati exists in SL AND they’ll give me stuff for free!  Why couldn’t they have done that in RL?
  5. Wow.  I could teach here, really!  Just have to find myself some students that are old enough!

In the past three weeks, I’ve learned most of the basics, although I’m sure there’s more, become a shopaholic, found out how to rez prims, build basic structures, teleport, explore, and gone on a lot of tours with fellow language teachers.  I’m slowly understanding different ways that I could use SL with RL students, although I’m finding it a little overwhelming at times.

Check out some of my photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

The Globe Theatre in Language Lab

MacBeth Throne Room

On a killing spree in MacBeth

Getting ready to hang glide in EduNation III

The vocabulary assembly line is:

  1. Generate a word list
  2. Generate definitions
  3. Sort the list for batch entry
  4. Make repetition fun
  5. Generate pronunciation and spelling exercises
  6. Generate examples of usage in context
  7. Create associations
  8. Link to an image
  9. Link to a location
  10. Link to an emotion
  11. Be memorable
  12. Put it all together

First, we made a vocabulary list and generated definitions for the list using Wordsmyth.  Then we used SortMyList to organize and format the list. Finally, we used Google Translate in an L1 that would be useful for our students and posted the results on the course wiki.  Here’s my final list, which I made to go with the unit I’ll hopefully start with my beginner middle school ESL students this week as long as we don’t have any more snow days!  I went ahead and made changes to the translation given to me by Google Translate, which I don’t think I’d ever use for this purpose, since it took more time to edit the list and get it to post correctly to the wiki than to translate it myself!

I’d seen most of the tools presented this week at one point or another,  but it had been a while since I’d played with some of them.  The task for this week was to try at least 2 of the tools, so I decided to combine several of them together.

I got the text for the story for “The Happy Prince” from Project Gutenberg, and found an audio version on LibrivoxLessonwriter.com was used to make the activities, but unfortunately didn’t let me keep the text changes I had made (highlighted where the characters spoke and who was speaking; spaces between paragraphs). It also has a limit of 800 words per text.  “The Happy Prince” is 3,000 some words, so I might make several lessons and then combine them all by hand.

I also found a nice blog entry with images to go with the story along the way.

Here’s the link student activity portion of the lesson.  I was happy to see that Lessonwriter now includes options for differentiation!

What are your thoughts on using the seven principles of memorization as a factor in creating vocabulary lesson and/or employing these in your vocabulary instruction?  

  1. Timed repetition
  2. Link to an image
  3. Associate elements
  4. Link to a location
  5. Link to an emotion
  6. Be memorable
  7. Be brief

I think that I use all seven principles of memorization in my classes, although sometimes the lessons are not as memorable as I would like them to be. I find it much easier to be memorable with the 2nd graders I teach than with the middle school students, mostly because the materials are rich in images and associations, as well as project work, from the start. The middle school materials are much less visually pleasing, and require a lot of adaptation. Having (or making) concrete objects for my beginning students is always a plus.

When working with content-area vocabulary (tier 3), I try to use the six steps for teaching academic vocabulary:

  1. The teacher gives a description, explanation, or example of the new term.
  2. The teacher asks the learners to give a description, explanation, or example of the new term in their own words.
  3. The teacher asks the learners to draw a picture, symbol, or locate a graphic to represent the new term.
  4. The learners participate in activities that provide more knowledge of the word.
  5. The learners discuss the term with other learners
  6. Multiple exposures to the word.

The school I was at last year emphasized using this process, along with a lot of graphic organizers. Not so different from the seven principles…

I’m still learning how to get the most out of my Mac, and loving every minute of it! I wanted to find some music videos in Spanish to use in my classes, and this ended up being even easier than it was with my PC.

If you’re using Safari, there’s an easy way to download YouTube videos. Open the page with the movie and press Command-Option-A, which shows the Activity window. If you’re also loading other sites, you’ll see a list of them: scroll until you find the YouTube page and click on the arrow to show details about what is being loaded. You will see an item that is over 0.5MB. Double-click on it (even if it is still loading), and Safari will download it. When the download is over, navigate to the file in the Finder and add the extension .flv to its name if necessary. That’s it!

This past week of evomlit (week 3), we looked at the “pedagogical lens” as proposed by M. Pegrum in From Blogs to Bombs.  I’ve been looking at a lot of the tools mentioned, and trying to figure out how to best coordinate my online experiences in an ePortfolio.  While I understand the concept, I’m having trouble finding a tool that I really like and that doesn’t require me to basically start from scratch again.

When I moved back to the US in July and had to really begin my job search, one of the “new” requirements was “proof of teaching excellence.” This was something new to me.  I knew I should be keeping a portfolio, but I had no clue what should actually go there.  My master’s program never discussed this at all, and my undergrad in business wasn’t helping much.  So, I scrambled.  And am still scrambling.  I’ve been active in EVOs for a while now, and have spent countless hours developing activities and workshops with online components.  But I haven’t been good at pulling it all together.  I’ve tried with wikis, and for now have a portfolio on Google Sites at http://sites.google.com/site/erinlowry2/. I’m not happy with how it looks (liked it much better when it was still hosted through Google Pages), and even less with its capabilities to display feeds from the different things I’m working on or teaching.  I still don’t have any “real” videos of me teaching, which I need to fix and soon.  I also have a LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/erinlowry, but haven’t found it that useful. After looking at the portfolios for some of the other evomlit participants (http://jenniferverschoor.pbworks.com/, ), I think I might go back and try pbworks.  I’ve used it for course materials, and find it easier to use than wikidot, which I had used for one of my earlier portfolio attempts.

In this week’s reading, we looked at 4 “literacy groups”:

  1. Language literacies
  2. Information literacies
  3. Connection literacies
  4. Remix literacies

I especially enjoyed the section that mentioned how students at a particular college were allowed to use the internet, iPods, and “phone a friend” while taking an exam, and how these activities were not cheating, but “using our tools and including the world in our knowledge base.”  This reminded me of several recent happenings at my school.

  1. I was sitting in a department meeting discussing the possible adoption of new textbooks for next year.  I had previously looked online to see what I could find that I thought we should request samples of, and mentioned this to the group.  I was told that the state has a list of books we are allowed to use, and that the list would be forwarded to me later.  I had my laptop out, immediately googled and found the list, and was all ready to decide then, but no one else wanted to see it or seemed to believe that I had found it.  What should have been a decision made in 5 minutes (short list to choose from!) has stretched into 2 weeks.
  2. My students commenting before finals time how good they are at cheating (they’re actually quite obvious).  They had time beforehand to create drafts of the writing they had to do for their final, where they could use their books, dictionaries, the internet, each other, and so on.  I had one student who brought his draft on his iPhone, which I let him use, and then wondered what admin would think if they came into my classroom and saw him using it!

I agree that in their working lives, my current students will never had to carry large amounts of information around in their heads (besides my hope for them to be able to communicate in another language).  All my doctor friends that are now in the middle of their residencies have Blackberries or PDAs or other tools to use. They will need to be able to access information and do so quickly.

I’m feeling a little guilty about still not being so caught up after three days off school for snow, but I’ll get there!

I went to a quick lunchtime workshop this week where teachers were introduced to the many features of a Smartboard.  Mostly I went so that they would let me use a Smartboard in my classroom, but it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d seen one.  I couldn’t help but grin while the others were owhing and awhing over this “new” technology they were going to have in their classrooms.  The first Smartboard I played with was in 1999 while I was student worker at UC.  Design students were using it to present their portfolios to reps at different companies, and it was paired with videoconferencing.  It made me wonder again what exactly the relationship between technology and public schools in the US is.

This is the second week of evomlit, and as always, I’m having a bit of a time keeping up, and keep sinking a little further into my patano of technology, where I get stuck playing with new tools and never get around to commenting on them.  I’ve been using iGoogle for a while now, and sometime in late 2008 finally figured out that Twitter was a useful tool.  Last week I started using Diigo.  Thinking about the technological lens, I find it more challenging every day to try to filter out what technologies might work with my students, what my school will actually allow (before I get too excited about using something that I actually cannot), and equally more frustrating to try to understand what a “21st century” skill really is. In From Blogs to Bombs, Mark P. makes a point that I live every day as a high school language teacher:

“Effectively, our whole culture has moved into perpetual beta, where changes happen so quickly, and are contributed to by so many diverse people and groups, that everything becomes provisional. There’s real potential here for doing things a new way. But there are also lots of people, from parents to politicians and despots to democrats, who find their worldviews unsettled.”

I find it unsettling that my students’ worldview is upset as well.  I believe that they need to know how to use the tools that make up such a large part of their lives in a way that benefits their education.  I understand why so many things are filtered out on our computers, but then how do I teach my students to sort through what’s good and bad?  What’s real or not?

I had more written here the first time around, then managed to erase everything!  I do want to spend some time going through Mark Pegrum’s wiki this week, http://e-language.wikispaces.com/.

This video struck a chord with me. I recently returned to the US after four years of living abroad in El Salvador and Colombia, and teaching EFL. Having picked a bad month economy-wise to come back (July), I ended up taking a job teaching high school Spanish in Eastern North Carolina. I was hoping to find an ESL position, but it didn’t work out, and I love Spanish as much as I do English! The school I’m at made a huge pitch to me that included lots of support for using technology in the classroom, which is for me, an essential part of teaching today.

I started working with my students halfway through the semester, and have run into many walls not only with technology, but with resources and curriculum in general. These are not yesterday’s students…they’re today’s. Although the students are classified as “poor” for the most part, the majority walk into my room with at least a cell phone, if not also some kind of MP3 player or video game system. Or more than one! Problem is, they can’t use them, but they’re allowed to have them (which means they’re going to use them).

Many of my students have problems concentrating and are easily distracted, and listening to music does help (they’ve shown me that). But, we can’t do that. Many of their phones can connect to the Internet (but we can’t do that either). There’s 5 computers in my room, plus a laptop and dataprojector, which I was excited about at first, until I figured out that almost anything I would want to use is blocked. All audio and video material is supposed to be board-approved before it is used as well. I understand why, but at the same time, don’t see that as realistic. Content changes every day, which my students and I know, but others seem to not. Students also have no way to email from the school, which means that setting up accounts

I’ve spent the past 9 weeks surviving, trying to adapt content to encourage communication and interest, to incorporate ways to use the language to create, but feel that I failed.  But I’m not close to being done trying, and can’t wait to get my hands on some new ideas that will actually work!  There’s so much more that I have to say about my students, but…I just realized that this is the seventh year I’ve participated in EVO sessions, and the first where I haven’t been actively involved in teaching ESL or EFL. I think that there’s a lot that I can learn from this session, Multiliteracies and Collaboration and am really looking forward to it!